Roleplay basics question

I will definitely take a look at Samurai Hyuga and the Soul Stones. And it is good to hear that people also feel personality locked sometimes because that is a bigger problem for me personally. No matter if I chose my personality for my character and don’t find the correct choices, approaches or language in dialogue to fit that, or I get a personality chosen for me, or chose to play as myself.

I feel for you when it comes to your first point. I think it is great that there are options, in all media, for non cis MC’s, but I don’t really see that IF-stories are inherrently better at addressing these issues. Some stories can do it quite easily, others a little less so. It should be encouraged ofcourse, all diversity should be encourage, but I am a little sceptical about strict rules. But I do see your point about different point of views not being that enticing if you don’t have the option to chose your own to begin with. Never thought about it that way.

Stereotypes; a love hate relationship for sure.


Love your explanation and the variety that is out there. I guess I will aim low (and easy) and if things go well, aim for professionalism and safe in the future. :slight_smile:

Most people who want to look at things involving Adolf Hitler don’t really associate him with inclusiveness.

Genocide, mass murder, the Holocaust, Wars of Aggression.

Things like that.

Also, please use the quote function.


@Nils_Lindeberg – When a post is colored with the staff background, it is considered moderation and something that is not discussed publically.

The Choice of Game forum community is dedicated to establishing a safer [safeR – JSH] zone for those that normally do not find the internet a welcoming environment.

We definitely and emphatically do not want to make this site a place where people who search for Hitler “end up” …

Hitler and his associated hate is something that those who experience such do not even want to joke about

Any further mention of Hitler in this thread by anyone is grounds for moderation action which can include suspension or silencing of forum privileges.

Let us refocus on the thread’s discussion and stop derailing the discussion any further.


Textbased if are absolutely the best to include such options because there is no visual components, which means a whole slew of problem is significantly lessened.

In cogs it cost very little to simply change the pronouns of the mc, which is the minimum. Now some people might want to do something with gender or sexuality in which case it does get complicated, but the majority of stories just doesn’t touch these subjects (nor are they obligated to) in which case it cost a {} and a few stats in the intro.

Now keep in mind that the official gameline Hearts Choice which does focus on the subject do genderlock something, because gender, romance and sex is the focus there and thus it becomes harder to demand equal inclusivity and do well. (Not impossible but harder) But that is not the case for the majority of ifs in which case just including pronouns is very easy to do.


I’d suggest that the key words are actually “company values and policy.”

And you would see that kind of reception on the forums as well, in roughly the same proportion, if the forum norms and rules hadn’t been shaped by CoG company policy. The grumbles about “SJW politics taking over the story” get moderated out on the forum in a way that they aren’t by Apple or Google. The forumgoers who are eager to explain why inclusiveness is a good thing have free rein to do so. That’s the “crowd” you’re talking about, and it has the voice it has because of CoG’s values; it’s not the explanation for those values.

I’d agree with the authors who’ve suggested above that the mass market for IF broadly tends to reward “maximum capacity to self-insert”… or at least “don’t you lock me into your main character, Mr Author, I’m the one role-playing here” (which isn’t quite the same thing but rewards the same degree of flex). But the broader market would clearly tolerate a lot less social inclusiveness than CoG policy requires.

As a company, CoG has made its own deliberate choice to aim for a subset of that broader market… to publish particularly for the fans who rejoice that “for the almost-first time I get to play someone like me!” and also, “Wow, that doesn’t force me into a story that’s all about oppression! I can have exactly the same hero’s journey as anyone else!”

Although as noted above the company’s inclusiveness criteria have broadened over time, the values driving them in that direction have been there from Choice of the Dragon onwards. And as a CoG partner said elsewhere on this forum, the fact that “inclusiveness” choices come at the beginning and often have a light impact on the rest of the story is a feature, not a bug. The purpose of inclusive choices isn’t to give different stories to different kinds of readers; it’s to welcome them in, to make clear that this story really can be about them if they want it to be.

So why hasn’t CoG policy (yet) encompassed other axes of real-world exclusion like disability, old age, body type, neurotype, etc. in the same way as ethnicity, gender, and orientation? I’m sure it’s been discussed, given the company values, and I’d be interested in hearing whatever their latest thoughts are. I’d hazard a guess that part of it is that those feel harder to implement in a “cosmetic” way with minimal variation in the story; it’s a much bigger resource commitment to write for a blind or autistic MC, because you can’t just set some variables to pop in pronouns etc. from time to time.

The text-based sequential choice interface also puts some limits on character generation, as it can easily murder story momentum if you try to cram too much in there. A graphical interface makes it a bit easier to tinker with multiple variables to the player’s content while keeping the interruption to the story tolerable if still mockable. So priorities have to be drawn somewhere. I’d be interested in CoG’s latest thoughts on what makes the priority list and why.


I do agree that text based are much easier to change to accomodate different things, but books are text based, and if all you had to do was change the pronouns my guess is that a lot more books would come in different versions, especially with self published e-books today. The reasons most IF-stories here are presented that way is because it is an explicit rule here and more or less an implicit rule of expectation from the earliest days of CYOA books. A time when the story and personality was more or less non-existant and based on simple RPG’s where your personality as a player could be summarized with a name, a race, gender and possibly an alignment abbreviation.

In short it might be the limitation of doing it this way that caused a majority of IF-stories to be that way today. And not the other way around.

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Interesting idea, and there’s definitely something to it…but does it maybe conflate two slightly different things? I feel like CYOA (at least the US branded series that I grew up on) had more of the idea of “you” implicit at its heart, that it was inviting you to immerse yourself by really imagining these things were happening to you (a big difference from other books). RPGs by contrast had the “role,” the invitation to act out a person or thing that might be very different from you.

Both of them did tend to shallow characterisation… but of their NPCs as much as their protagonists. I don’t know how much I think that’s a limitation of the medium and how much it’s just what happens early in a pulp genre…


Most CYOA had absolutely zero roleplay. Most of them was find the correct way through or you die. I can think of one book which had several all legetimately ends (Not just you chose poorly, now die) as a well as a companion.

(It was one were you were a duke or something and you city dissapeared so you had to travel through the land with your witch friend and potential lover.) .

They were of course limited by the medium. Namely that people had to thumb through a book to find a number. There was no way to remember what you have done before so for each minor branch you had to essential write a whole new number.


I definitely think this was more of the early pulp genre thing. Most of the CYOA I read as a teenager cast you as a generic adventurer, but often with som sort of background and I always thought the “what do you do?”-questions was aimed at me as a roleplayer playing the character in the book. Not me as a player. I mostly had the pictures in the book as my mind’s eye view of the story, not a picutre of myself with a sword and armor. But the actual roleplaying was minimal, in that I didn’t really think about, or even know, what the MC would or should do. The moral dilemmas were few and far between. But most of the time I tried to be the hero, even if I would never had made those choices personally in that same situation.

I guess roleplaying, immersion and identification with the MC, means very different things to different people. One shouldn’t use one’s own preferences as an assumption of everybody else’s.


I find this a really interesting discussion so I’m going to chip in with a few thoughts…

The question of inclusivity was something I personally struggled with when I first began to write for CoG. Not because I don’t agree with being inclusive (I’d always admired that about the franchise) but because my background was almost 15 years of writing largely non-interactive fiction - short stories and video game scripts mostly. My strength, I liked to think, was in strong and distinctive narrative voices. I wrote by preference in the first–person and used flawed and unusual protagonists. I revelled in forcing readers to squeeze their feet into unfamiliar shoes. Now, I was worried that by broadening the range of possible protagonists to account for all player choices, I would dilute the personality of the MC to a vague sort of cipher, a blank-faced and boring avatar.

Long story short(ish), I needn’t have worried. The very act of being inclusive stretched me as a writer more than I’d expected and I found that forcibly accounting for all possible takes on any given situation was a very revealing exercise. I’ve always tried to take an objective approach, eschewing morals and messages as far as possible. But now I became aware of prejudices tucked away in folds of my brain that I’d never noticed before.

Also, it was thrilling to demonstrate to myself that qualities like gender and sexuality really don’t separate us nearly as much as we (or society?) would often like to believe. The changes needed to make the story work for a whole range of orientations were minimal, mostly cosmetic. And I could still give the MC their own character, albeit within slightly broader boundaries than I was used to. The trick here is just to set a few personality-based variables (I used “morality”, “assertion”, “idealism”, “joviality” and “otherness”) to guide your assumptions.

As many other commenters on this thread have noted, readers of IF tend to want to actively identify with the protagonist of the story (natural when it’s written in 2nd person) and will buck against any restraints to this. I first found this out for myself a good few years ago when I wrote a draft of a gamebook (a physical gamebook - that’s how long ago!) that was meant as a pastiche of the Swords and Sorcery genre (and the Fighting Fantasy books in particular, which tended to have more characterisation of the MC than the CYOA books). The hero was vain, arrogant, boorish, ignorant, a lunk with a sword. He was clearly meant to be comic rather than sympathetic and while this would have worked in a conventional story, in an interactive one it really didn’t. Readers liked the writing but many of them hated the fact that they were being forced to identify themselves with him, however tongue-in-cheek the intention.

That said… There definitely still is a place for IF with fixed protagonists and I personally really like this sort of thing when it’s done well. Many of the interactive stories which have remained with me the longest have done so because they made me consider the world from an unfamiliar point of view and I think if it’s handled appropriately, this can be a real force for good and something which IF can do uniquely well. To truly understand someone else’s motivations and point of view, you need to be placed as close to them as possible and you don’t get any closer in writing than a 2nd person viewpoint…

But with CoG I guess what it really comes down to is a sort of house style. Others here have already given a really good overview of what’s expected from a CoG or HG title and I think if you deviate too far from that you run the risk of cheating the expectations of your readers. Not that you shouldn’t take that risk, but it’s worth remembering it’s there and being as explicit up-front as you can if you’re doing something really different.


My take:

  • The CofG company games (as opposed to those just hosted by CofG) have always been specifically mandated to allow the reader to choose gender, sex, and sexual orientation (which includes options like asexual). Likewise, most people on the forum are looking for games that include this specific form of customization.
  • Other forms of optionality such as religion or nationality, however, do not seem to be considered mandatory, probably because they are not the personal priority of the CofG staff and/or the “hardcore” fans and players on the forum. My guess (and it is only a guess) is that many players have been discriminated against in the real world on a basis of their gender or sexual orientation but not so often on a religious basis, hence the somewhat limited scope of the CofG definition of “inclusivity.”
  • For decades, there has been an extremely interesting debate in how heavily the “fiction” and “interactive” elements of IF need to be weighted, i.e. is it more important to have lots of game mechanics (in CS, these are called statistics) determining gameplay or is it better to have more “standard” fictional elements like plotting and fixed narrative control. At least in terms of what I’ve seen on the CofG forum, the audience preference is heavily favored towards interactivity rather than (traditional) narrative designs.
  • Of course, there are dozens of counter-examples, so nothing I or anyone else is saying here is absolute. But the general feeling I get is that people would rather “play as themselves” in a game with a lot of very transparent choices rather than take an escapist journey with an “other” character regardless of how well or interesting that character was written or the story plotted.

Again, my two cents, and I definitely do NOT presume to speak for anyone else, much less the CofG staff. Each and every single thing I’ve said here may be completely wrong.


I have come to the same conclusion. But there is one more balance issue that I would like some feedback on. Is it more important to have many options, even if they more or less end up with the same result, storywise. Just so the player can feel that their particular idea on how to proceed in a conversation or solve a problem or make a choice is represented. Or is it more important to have choices matter with wildly diverging story lines based on each choice. Or should one focus on the technical aspects where every choice might take you to the same scene ending story wise, but you get different modifiers on your attributes that carry over to the following scenes?

In short, do people prefer one of these examples?

Do you say…
Let’s go to the mountains.
Let’s take the ship to the other continent.
Let’s stay here on the beach in the sun.
[You end up with three completely different stories based on a few key decisions.]

Do you say…
I like the way you think so yes.
I can appreciate your point of view, so why not.
I would never do this under normal circumstances, but ok, just this once.
I must say this is completely against my principles, but sometimes circumstances are extreme, so yes.
[And they all end up in pretty much the same place, but you did it your way flavour wise without mechanical advantage/disadvantage.]

Do you say…
I hate you guts but I will come along. (-1 relationship with X, +1 with Y.)
I will come along but only if you pay me. (+1 gold)
I love to come along just for fun. (+1 relationship with X, -1 with Y.)
[You end up going no matter what, but you carry with you some consequences.]

Do you,
Bribe the Guard to let you pass (test vs. wealth)
Fast talk the guard to let you pass. (test vs. charisma)
Knock the guard aside and make a run for it. (test vs. agility)
Knock out the guard. (test vs. combat)
Back track, put on a disguise and try to sneak past the guard. (test vs. Disguise)
Use your magic and create a distraction and then walk past. (test vs. magic)
Back track and sneak into a hay wagon and hitch a ride past the guard. (test vs. Hide).

[With lots of different options to try catch all of the player’s inventive ideas to solve a problem or handle a certain situation, often resulting in different types of tests. Maybe even differentiate between the difficulty of the different tests, and differentiate how they fail/succeed, but mainly just proceeding with the storyline after a problem has been solved.]

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I’ll just say I dislike 2 the most. And for the last one, it looks like one of the four-point traps scenario (which I’m not really fond of).

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This is something I have been thinking about as I write, and I think much of it comes down to the storytelling-game aspect of choices.

I have decided to recognition two types of choices: Game meaningful choices and personally-meaningful choices. Intersection between these in CoG games is rarer than either but is what really makes a text based choice game good.

Example 1. A crude personally meaningful choice:

Chose your eye colour, chose your hair colour, chose your age etc etc.

These choices might mean a lot to the reader, but as far as the game goes the are meaningless.

Example 2. A crude game meaningful choice:

Will you use your bow or your sword, will you go left or right, will you invest in repairing the walls or repairing the keep.

These choices mean little to the reader emotionally or personally, the reader is trying to pick the “best” choice. This is what you have in block 4 of your choice examples

Now, the question which really arises for me is how can game-meaningful choices have an emotional aspect, and how can personally meaningful choices be either difficult to make or “meaningful” - either of these make for very good choices.

Example 3. game meaningful choices with an emotional aspect - tradeoffs

A) Your third block of suggested choices does this, because it provides a selection of choices where each choice has advantages and disadvantages. The player is forced to make trade-offs for their goals - there is a sense of loss and hard decision making in the choice.

B) This can also be done through path opening and closing - provide two options which the player will want to do, each with benefits and costs, but they may only take one. Will you help A or B, will you try and learn more or will you protect what little sanity you have left, will you complete your homework or bunk off.

These choices emotionally invest the player in the mechanical choice. No longer is the player simply pushed to pick “i use gun” because at the beginning they picked “i am good with gun”; nor can the player achieve everything that they might wish.

Example 4. Personally meaningful choices which are relevant to game-play

In games with any sort of graphics, physical character customization appears on your avatar, you tend to see the choices you made in front of you. In text based games this normally boils down to checking the stats page and seeing “Hair colour: Purple with pink bits”. Not only is it a purely cosmetic choice, but it is less so than if you had some sort of visual confirmation. The question arises then, how can you tie these into the game.

I can see why these choices are added into a game, but lots and lots of purely personally-meaningful choices with no reflection in the “game world” becomes shallow and a significant part of the game is taken up with irrelevant customization - it is also easy to do, so there is a high degree of similarity between the start of many GoG works in progress.

Here is a little example in my game of making the players height relevant, and reminding them that they picked these options at the beginning.

There is a knocking on your door. You open it, finding Solaria standing just outside.
*if height != "very short"
    She looks up at you 
*if height = "very short"
    She looks at you 
and asks if you want to go for a walk in the gardens with her.

Here the character the player is interacting with is very short - unless the player is also very short she has to look up at you, it reminds the player of the height difference/similarity between the two of you. These take time to do but they can work towards making a personally meaningful choice feel game-meaningful without penalizing the player for their personal-choice

Emotionally invest your reader in the choices, make some of them difficult for the player to make. Ensure there are consequences to decisions. Meld the choices and the story together. Tracking the users choices through setting variables on and off then providing little (or large) callbacks to them can work to make the player see the consequences of their actions, and if these are included then your player will become more invested in their choices.


This is more a function of game design and execution. There is no absolute when creating an IF game. Each designer achieves successful balance by designing a structure (which I believe is much more than “stats”) which then is executed and deployed.

Each author will have their preference of choice-type, but a “good” game will have a mixture of choice-types that end up being dynamic. @Cataphrak is a master of making a personally meaningful choice evolve into a personally meaningful choice that become relevant to game-play and then devolving that choice back down to obscurity later.

My preference to form a foundation with is what @Alice-chan refers to as “personal meaningful choices which are relevant to game-play”

I’m going to use an example from my current “Project Two”:

One of the first choices I have the reader make is their background nationality. (Irish, German, Scandinavian) …

At the (very) beginning of the game, the choice can be said to be one of personally meaningful magnitude … the dialogue interactions are all relatively equal in scope and in consequence.

Then, during the advancement of the game, at various nexus points within the plot, these choices will become game relevant … being included or excluded within different sub-arcs based on the choice made, some that might lead to life-or-death consequences.

After these crisis points, these decisions may or may not recede into the background because of the emotional impact of the climax points experienced before. From an execution stand-point, my goal with this is to allow competing factors influence the ebb and the flow of these decisions’ relevance (and thus impact).

The core of all my choices made are aimed to be “personal meaningful choices which are relevant to gameplay” but where they are on that relevance scale will change over the course of the game, hopefully, more than once.


To give you a thorough answer would require writing an entire book :stuck_out_tongue:

The short answer, however, is that the original CYOA games were all woefully lacking in intelligent choices, that is to say that the reader (player) was often asked to “go to the mountains” or “go take the ship” without really having any idea which would be more successful. Of course, the benefit of a paperback IF book was that you could “rewind” and take the other path if the first ended up being an unforeseen pitfall.

That being said, the original CYOA game books, more or less, ended either in a dead end (often, literally, the death of the main character) or a single successful outcome, so the player/reader’s choices were more or less meaningless.

With digital IF and game systems like CS where there is no “rewind” button, authors are encouraged to subtly telegraph the foreseen choice outcomes using narrative means, although this is often rather clumsily done by just outright saying “if you make this choice, you get +7 charisma”.

There are excellent analyses that describe the various IF narrative structures such as “branch and bottleneck” which can give the illusion of variety without always necessitating writing substantially different, alternative narratives, but this is really hard to do deftly.

Often, as an author, you end up either choosing to create a “there’s only one true path” narrative or doing a heck of a lot of “double” writing where you’re creating entirely new, unconnected narratives based on the player/reader’s choices.

As for the rest, it’s been covered quite well under the topic of the “four-point trap.”

In addition, it seems to be extraordinarily difficult to understand what the audience of any given IF wants or prefers. I’ve seen discussions in other threads here on the forum asking if anyone over the age of 30 even reads/plays these games. Obviously, they do, but it’s hard to know if the active commenting base skews quite young. Likewise the same based on feedback left on the Google Play store - do the ratings and comments reflect ALL the players or just the ones who bothered to leave the ratings/comments?

Essentially, what is badly missing in IF, in general, is a lack of market research about IF readers/players. It’s practically impossible to really know who is playing them AND who is buying them, not always the same people because some games (including CS ones) are free if “played to win.”

Certainly, a prospective author could base their writing style and mechanics on what the active, commenting fan base is clamoring for, but that may end up missing a far larger, “silent” readership.

About all I can say with confidence is that there definitely IS a substantial fan/player base of people who feel inadequately empowered and underrepresented in the “real world” who enjoy playing games where the pendulum swings the other way and they are over-endowed or over-empowered with supernatural or superhero or magical gifts and abilities (including the “mech” style powers). But whether that is accurately representative of the complete IF readership (and paid customer base) is unknown.


Either you are singling out the Super hero genre as being uniquely popular within the IF world or you are implying that to enjoy an IF game there is a substantial fan/player base that requires “over-empowerment or endowment” in order to enjoy these games.

Either way, I feel this interpretation is wrong.

First, the popularity of the superhero genre is commonplace, no matter the game format. Disney makes billions off of Marvel/DC titles, Star Wars titles and much more.

If you mean the second, then I’d say the reality is the “substantial fan/player base” you speak of enjoy playing games where they are equally endowed or equally-empowered. Not over-empowered or endowed.

As an example: In the most recent CoG release there was a “male dorm” a “female dorm” and a “non-binary dorm.”

Some in the wider game world might believe this was “over” representation and that it should not have been executed as such.

The reality is that, for the first time in my memory, an official title in a publisher’s library gave equal representation to the non-binary. This allows those who identify as such to say: “This is the way it should be.” or “Why can’t it be like this?”


Sincerely, I don’t see the point of this thread. It is running out in circles chasing our own tail.

If is exactly as any other interactive media, and catter specific audiences and areas. Now, I am exploring other If pages with very different principles from cog. Where not locked up genre is weird and fake choices and customisation is frowned upon. There are masterpieces doing under those premises.

So the important is THE QUALITY OF THE GAME both in design and plot. The rest is secondary and basically worthless.

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I have absolutely no problem or quarrel with inclusivity. If a game/story can appeal to more people than that’s great. I cannot even begin to fathom what argument might exist to support making a game/story less inclusive. Every author’s desire is (if, for profit motive alone) to get their works read by as many people as possible.

That being said, to speak to the OP’s comment, the definition of inclusivity is rather narrow, limited primarily to gender, sex, and sexual orientation. The OP spoke about why the MC’s religion is never customizable, for example.

As for superhero movies being popular now, that’s a whole separate subject and, I would argue, irrelevant to the discussion at hand, which is the mechanics and narrative forms used in IF. Most big-budget movies coming out of “Hollywood” are primarily designed for non-English-speaking audiences in China, while all CS games are specifically designed for an English-speaking audience. In other words, apples and oranges.

What I was attempting to say is that it is impossible to know very much about the full audience of IF if all you can go by is the comments left on this forum or feedback left on Google Play or other similar venues. For every one person who comments, a thousand or ten thousand might have played/read the work and just not said anything or given any feedback.

That being said, a representative sampling of the comments that DO exist show a bias towards games featuring the “super empowering” the player, whether that be in the form of magic, supernatural abilities, mechs, fighting skills, or something similar. Whether this type of game is broadly popular (i.e. to the “silent audience”) or not is unknowable, and that’s frustrating for any would-be author who isn’t interested or capable of writing an empowerment-style story.

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